Tuesday, February 25, 2014

18 Feb - Eddie Vedder @ The Palais Theatre

Eddie Vedder played in an old, beautiful theatre by the St. Kilda beach for three nights. I went for the second show last Tuesday, still recovering from the two weekend Springsteen shows. Ten Club gave me seats at the first level stalls, not what I was hoping for, but a good view nonetheless. Irish singer-songwriter, Glen Hansard, opened for Eddie. I was sold after the first song. He has a very seductive, sultry voice that draws you in and makes you feel at ease. And his songs were very well written. Halfway through he talked about how Eddie had reached out to him under sad, unfortunate circumstances (Glen witnessed someone commit suicide at his own show few years ago), and they had become good friends ever since. I think Eddie is just one outstanding human being, the kind we'd all like to have in our lives.

The stage design for Eddie's set looked really cool; gave a very warm, homey kinda feeling. He even brought back those bat wings used in the PJ shows. Every single one of the 24 songs performed was a highlight to me. I wasn't expecting anything obscure like I would at a PJ show; I was just blessed to be in the same room with the great Eddie Vedder. He opened with a cover of Cat Stevens, on the electric guitar. Sometimes, one of those lesser known PJ tunes, got a good reception. Small Town got a HUGE reception, of course. The Ukelele Songs section came early in the set. Ed told a morbidly funny story about depression and dealing with it. I don't know why, but I actually teared up when he briefly talked about his wife and kids at the end of You're True. The Into The Wild portion was absolutely INCREDIBLE. Setting Forth into Far Behind...WOW. And Rise on the mandolin...the way he played, the way he sang, it was musical perfection.

I was taken aback at how respectful and quiet the audience members were during most of the songs; they clapped and cheered at the appropriate moments. I was expecting lots of fans to shout out requests, but the only time that happened was when Eddie actually 'prompted' them to. And everyone followed the very strict 'no photography' policy, which made the concert experience much more pleasant. Ed adopted a different arrangement for Better Man, and it sounded much better like that as a solo performance (similar to PJ's Bridge School acoustic rendition). Masters Of War was a real treat to watch, very spine-chilling, and by far the best cover of the night. The aggressive one-two punch of Lukin and Porch was awesome; I didn't know he could pull off Porch so perfectly on the acoustic! This was when the crowd was most 'rowdy'.

Sleepless Nights got Ed and Glen singing without their mics at the edge of the stage. Their duet on Falling Slowly was gorgeous. Arc concluded the main set; originally an ominous chant honoring the nine people who lost their lives at a PJ show at Roskilde, has taken on a life of its own on the stage. It was a surreal five minutes. Ed's vocal delivery, his howls piercing right through your heart, the giant wall of sound at the end, was downright devastating. For the encore, Ed invited up onstage American alternative artist, Amanda Palmer, for a duet of her funny, uplifting song about ukuleles, Ukulele Anthem. Great, weird lyrics. Rockin' In The Free World was dedicated to the guy who Ed saw propose to his girlfriend at Saturday night's Springsteen show. For the closing Hard Sun, Ed played electric guitar to the backing track, adopting his PJ frontman persona, singing his heart out like he always does. It was a superb, awe-inspiring concert, and it didn't make me miss seeing Pearl Jam in Oz one bit. The feeling I got when I left the venue was exactly the same as after seeing Bruce -- a new lease on life.

After the show

1. Trouble
2. Sometimes
3. Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town
4. Can’t Keep
5. Without You
6. Broken Heart
7. You’re True
8. You've Got To Hide Your Love Away
9. Setting Forth
10. Far Behind
11. Guaranteed
12. Rise
13. Good Woman
14. Better Man
15. Masters Of War
16. Lukin
17. Porch
18. Sleepless Nights w/ Glen Hansard
19. Society w/ Glen Hansard
20. Falling Slowly w/ Glen Hansard
21. Arc

22. Ukulele Anthem w/ Amanda Palmer
23. Rockin’ In The Free World
24. Hard Sun w/ Glen Hansard & Amanda Palmer

Monday, February 24, 2014

Dream Baby Dream (PLAY IT LOUD!!!!)

Melbourne got Born In The U.S.A. and Born To Run, and Sydney got Darkness On The Edge Of Town. What album will Brisbane get?

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The National at Fort Canning Park

The National are better off performing in The Esplanade like they did back in 2011. But last night's performance was just as brilliant, albeit short. Cool that Matt was able to venture into the crowd again! I was slightly bummed they didn't play Humiliation.

Don't Swallow The Cap
I Should Live In Salt
Mistaken For Strangers
Bloodbuzz Ohio
Sea Of Love
Afraid Of Everyone
Squalor Victoria
I Need My Girl
This Is The Last Time
Slow Show
Pink Rabbits
About Today
Fake Empire

Mr. November
Terrible Love
Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks 

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band @ AAMI Park, Melbourne - Night 2

This time round, we decided to stand further back in the pit, in front of the sound tent. Because lining up for two days in row proved to be too much, as my feet were still sore from the previous night. Unfortunately the further you stand back, the more drunken idiots you encounter. Tonight's show was kind of a weird one, at least for the first hour. The E Street Band took the stage five minutes before eight. But Bruce was nowhere to be seen! He always comes out last, but this evening he didn't appear for a good minute or so. I was surprised Born In The U.S.A. was the opener (very rare in recent years), but the first few seconds were enough to whip the restless crowd into a frenzy. Badlands followed, but I noticed Bruce' voice wasn't in tip-top shape, as opposed to last night. He looked and sounded tired.

Things started to get interesting from Lucky Town onwards. I noticed something was off, but didn't know what till I saw the fan-shot video from the first row [link]. Apparently, guitar tech Kevin Buell put the capo on the wrong fret on Bruce's guitar, causing Bruce to realize the mistake and quickly change to the right fret just before going into the first chorus. He looked pissed after that. But we were rewarded with a lengthy, passionate solo at the end. Roulette was another obscure surprise, one that flew over most of the audience's heads. Only a diehard would be able to pick out the screw-up at the start. Apparently Bruce went into the opening guitar melody one bar too early. But man, it was a furious performance. Was happy to get Growin' Up again, but the introduction was plain strange. For what seemed like a ten good minutes, Bruce sat down on the stage steps and told a long, long story about growing up, living with his grandparents, staying up and watching television till the wee hours of the morning, going to school all fucked up...and on and on he went. This was the kind of thing he used to do in the '70s. Perhaps tonight he was using this opportunity to catch his breath, or maybe he was still hungover from Saturday night partying with Eddie Vedder. And when the band finally went into the song proper, it was brilliant. And then to my surprise, (and maybe for a lot of fans too), he brought back the powerful two-pack, Wrecking Ball and Death To My Hometown. The response was immensely overwhelming, probably the best of the night, next to Dancing In The Dark. It felt great to hear those songs again. The only sign request of the night was Lost In The Flood, which was played with so much power and fervor that it looked like Bruce had to recover from it by sitting down again during the following Spirit In The Night and do some more talking, this time something about the Jersey Devil. Love Jake's little sexy sax solo during the breakdown. 

And then when Bruce announced they wanted to do something different tonight, it could only mean one thing. The greatest album ever made, as far as I'm concerned. I never thought I'd get to see Born To Run played in its entirety. I knew this would be the last time I'd be seeing Bruce and the band for quite a while (I said that last year after Sydney, but really, who would've guessed he'd ever come back down under in less than a year?), and to receive the full performance of my all-time favorite record was an absolute, absolute pleasure. Thunder Road was played full band, the first on this tour. Jake's playing and showmanship have reached new heights and he continues to amaze me. There was a slight accident at the start of Tenth, when Max came in with the main beat before the main horn riff came in. Bruce went with the flow, proclaiming, "I like it! I like it!" Backstreets was tremendous, the best performance of the night. Bruce even included the famed Sad Eyes interlude. The segue from Born To Run to She's The One was awesome, just as the house lights went down quickly. Meeting Across The River was fucking brilliant. Only three instruments, Roy's piano, Curt Ramm's eloquent trumpet and Garry Tallent's EPIC (and I mean EPIC) bass playing. And then there was Jungleland, the highlight of any Springsteen show. My third time hearing it live, and while it was killer, it felt a bit odd, because Jake actually missed a portion of his solo, meaning he played the climatic portion a bit early, prompting Bruce to get him and the band to continue playing, so he repeated the same sax lines twice. But it actually turned out pretty good. Don't you just love the imperfectness of the E Street Band?

Heaven's Wall was moved up to the main set. While it's a good song live, I wished Bruce were more adventurous and play something else from High Hopes, like Frankie Fell In Love or This Is Your Sword; those would've killed live (also would've loved to hear American Skin). With so many children upfront, you knew he had to pull out Waitin' On A Sunny Day sooner or later. Well, we didn't get it on Saturday, so I didn't mind hearing it tonight. And here's something that doesn't happen often -- Kevin Buell was 'ordered' by Bruce to come out and sing the initial chorus with Stevie, before he counted off for the band to come in. This time The Rising (possibly the best version I've heard) came first before Tom Joad, before again concluding the main set with Land Of Hope And Dreams. By then, the show had already clocked in at a whopping three hours, and we all know how lengthy the encores can be sometimes. Bruce mentioned, "I got a note saying there's 20 minutes left... but you can all hitch-hike home, can't you?" It was gonna be yet another curfew-breaking Boss time, not that anyone was complaining.

Bruce gave an impassioned speech about his experience at the South African shows, Nelson Mandela's influence, and the late Pete Seeger. He then brought back the great We Are Alive, but with a unique twist; he sang the first verse & chorus a capella. The mood was further livened with a raw, loose Ramrod, and then a surprise Bobby Jean before turning back up the stadium lights for Dancing In The Dark (on a side note; it has gotten to a point where there seems to be more Dancing sign requests than actual song requests now, and people are getting more creative with their signs). Twist And Shout replaced Shout, and by this time we've gone way past the 20min mark. An emotional This Hard Land finished off one of the longest shows (and definitely the longest in Australia to date) Bruce and the band had ever done....3 hrs 48 mins to be exact. This Hard Land was a farewell song for the ages, and I wept because Bruce sang it so damn beautifully (and it looked like he was gonna break down at one point), I wept because I don't know when I'll be seeing 'em live again, because even after a mere eight shows over five years, I still couldn't believe I was standing among thousands, many miles away from home, witnessing magic. I was extremely exhausted, but extremely satisfied. Despite the several flubs that occurred throughout the night, I don't think I've ever seen a better concert than this, and I don't think I ever will. The E Street Band look and sound so good they could easily do this for another ten years at least.

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band are not the best in the world at what they do. They're the only ones in the world that do what they do.

Born In The U.S.A.
Lucky Town
Growin' Up
Wrecking Ball
Death To My Hometown
High Hopes
Just Like Fire Would
Lost In The Flood
Spirit In The Night
Thunder Road
Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
Born To Run
She's The One
Meeting Across The River
Heaven's Wall
Waitin' On A Sunny Day
The Rising
The Ghost Of Tom Joad
Land Of Hope And Dreams

We Are Alive
Bobby Jean
Dancing In The Dark
Twist And Shout
This Hard Land (solo acoustic)

P.S. It's really disappointing that they chose not to release the bootleg for this show [link]. Who knows what the reason is. I like to think it's not those screw-ups that led to the decision of not putting it out. In fact, I was so looking forward to hearing those mistakes again, and obviously the entire Born To Run. Oh well...I'm still hoping it'll be made available at later date.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band @ AAMI Park, Melbourne - Night 1

Bruce is back in Australia!! I've only seen Springsteen live six times, four of which have achieved classic statuses in my book. So I had ridiculously high expectations going into the first Melbourne show, the band's fourth in the city in less than 12 months. The previous Perth and Adelaide shows on this Oz tour got mouth-watering setlists, albeit no full albums, presumably because it was the first time Bruce was playing those cities. Melbourne was different though; you knew he couldn't repeat the same Wrecking Ball-themed show like last year. High Hopes songs had been getting some airings, but this tour wasn't exactly billed as the High Hopes tour. It made perfect sense for them to do full albums in cities previously visited.

My second time doing the roll calls was more tiring than in Sydney 2 last year. For one thing, there was not much of a shade to queue up in, and the Australian summer heat was not forgiving. And since it was an outdoor stadium show this time, the numbers went to much higher, almost 1000 for the first night. I was glad no. 42-something got us around fifth row, stage right, in front of Steve Van Zandt. The first opening act, Dan Sultan, was not too bad. But it was legendary Aussie rock band, Hunters & Collectors, that really got the crowd going. It was significant because it was one of their first performances since the band got back together. They put on a solid hour, ahead of schedule. Therefore you'd think that Bruce and the band would take the stage early, given the strict venue curfew, but that was not to be. There seemed to be a last-minute change once everything was set up on stage, with the roadies coming out again to paste new setlists on the floor. And then they added an extra mic stand in between Bruce's and Stevie's, which basically confirmed my prediction that you-know-who was gonna show up. The show started more than half an hour past scheduled time.

So Bruce invited the one and only Eddie Vedder onstage for the first two songs. For me it was the singular greatest concert experience I've ever had in my life. Period. Two of my heroes with great respect for each other onstage together, for the first time outside the States. I couldn't make any of the PJ shows earlier this year, so this was a sort consolation, a very good one indeed. And I've never seen Eddie this up close before. Highway To Hell was played for the third time on the Oz tour, and it proved to be a great stadium opener. Eddie's fiery vocals on Darkness lifted the song to a higher place. It was also nice to see/hear Badlands back at the start of the set. Seeds was a pleasant surprise, my first time (since 2009) hearing it with the horn section. High Hopes sounded much better, and much more ferocious than last year...glad to have Tom Morello back again. Just Like Fire Would, which could be mistaken for an E Street song, rocked the house hard. Bruce and Steve sang from the center mini platform in front of the stage, in which we were a short distance away from. First sign request of the night was Jole Blon, a Gary US Bonds cover, and one seldom played live. I was looking at Morello's face -- he was going like "I don't know how the hell to play this, so I'm just gonna smile and fake my way through it!" Good thing Bruce called out the chord before the band kicked in. It was a loose, almost flawless performance.

The Born In The USA album from start to finish; the crowd went wild the moment Bruce announced they were playing it. It couldn't have worked better in a stadium setting. This was the album that made him a household name in Australia during the mid 80s. It's one thing listening to the album at home or in the car for God knows how many times over the past ten years, but hearing it in a live context is totally different I must say. So we all know the sequence, but that 'predictability' didn't once spoil the enjoyment. The end of the title track was just insane. Max Weinberg seemed possessed as he tried to destroy the drums, as Bruce continued screaming at him (watch the London Hard Rock Calling 2013 version for reference). For Cover Me, Nils Lofgren took the ending solo, as usual doing his awesome spinning shtick. Of course, I was most excited for Downbound Train. It was an excellent version, especially with the horns, and had Roy Bittan and Stevie taking solos during the extended outro. A very long Dancing In The Dark saw two dudes donning big black wigs couple of rows behind me invited up to the stage because they wanted to dance with Cindy Mizelle. It was a hilarious few minutes there. The sing-along during My Hometown was spine-chilling. I liked how the band (the old guard mainly) took their bows center stage after the album performance. Casual concertgoers might have thought the main set was over, but Bruce and the band were just getting started.

I was so stoked to hear Factory. It was a humble sign request which got Bruce talking about the importance of work in our lives. Who among us couldn't relate to that? Continuing the same 'working' theme came Shackled And Drawn, which is always fun to see up close. This time Cindy didn't come down to the center platform, but Bruce improvised hand signs at the end to prolong her shining gospel moment. The Ghost Of Tom Joad never gets old. Morello went a few bars longer than usual.  It's certainly not the best I've seen though (Sydney Night 2 still remains unbeatable). The fitting pairing of The Rising and Land Of Hope And Dreams (really something to witness upfront) closed the main set. There was one moment when Jake was taking the solo and Bruce rested his head on Jake's shoulder. I lost it. It's the little moments like these.  

Another gospel-tinged Heaven's Wall opened a long encore. I love the 'sudden' transition as it went into Born To Run. After which, Bruce asked Melbourne, "Are you ready to get the party started?" He wasn't kidding. Rosalita was heaps of fun, with Stevie and Jake joining Bruce on the small stage. Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out was still as emotional as ever. I loved how at the end of the song, Bruce was looking at Clarence on the giant screen. Big Man's spirit was still very much alive. Shout was when Bruce did the band introductions, saving Little Steven for the last. After the band left the stage, an acoustic Thunder Road closed out the night. Still my favorite song of all time, now and forever. Bruce did it in a rather unique way, and every second he held the entire audience by the palm of his hand. Show no.7 was the longest one yet, with Manchester 2012 a close second. And in terms of sound performance and atmosphere for an outdoor concert, it surpassed Manchester, simply because it was so much better watching the show from the first few rows. I also had a more enjoyable front pit experience than in Sydney 2 because there was no pushing or unruly behavior from the people around us. Everyone looked out for one another and just wanted to have a good time. That's the way it should be. Finally, standing so close to the stage allowed us to see every interaction between Bruce and the band members, every hand signal or command he gave to them when he wanted to change things up, those reactions from the band everytime the crowd went wild, and the sheer joy on Eddie's face. Great to have Stevie back in Aus too. Round 2 coming up...

Highway To Hell
Darkness On The Edge Of Town
High Hopes
Just Like Fire Would
Jole Blon
Hungry Heart
Born In The U.S.A.
Cover Me
Darlington County
Working On The Highway
Downbound Train
I'm On Fire
No Surrender
Bobby Jean
I'm Goin' Down
Glory Days
Dancing In The Dark
My Hometown
Shackled And Drawn
The Ghost Of Tom Joad
The Rising
Land Of Hope And Dreams

Heaven's Wall
Born To Run
Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)
Seven Nights To Rock
Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
Thunder Road (acoustic) 

"I think I got possessed by my thirty year old self."

P.S. The official bootleg is now available for download [link]. Considering the sound guys had only less than four days to do a quick mix (if there ever was one), it doesn't sound too bad at all. It's very raw, very unprocessed, and it's the kind of sound you would've heard at the concert. Think of it as a really good-sounding audience bootleg. There's still a lot of room for improvement though, like turning up Bruce's vocals.